With the Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra from Lithuania, the spirited Argentinean singer Analia Selis, who is also particularly committed to the tradition of the tango of her home country and the music of Astor Piazzolla, Mariano Castro (piano, arrangement) and Nicolás Velázquez (bandoneon), the Swiss conductor and dramaturge Kaspar Zehnder will open the Concentus Moraviae Festival 2022 on Tuesday, 31 May 2022 in the Czech town of Boskovice. The final concert on 27 June 2022 in Zlín is also the start of an international tour by Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená and her husband Simon Rattle, who will be accompanied by an ensemble of their musical friends.
As guest curator and dramaturge of the International Concentus Moraviae Festival, Kaspar Zehnder has created a very special kind of festival. From 31 May to 27 June 2022, countless musinicians in the Moravian region will present selected folk tunes with passion and commitment, taking the audience on a special musical journey. The festival will be held in several Czech cities and border towns in neighbouring countries.
AKM: What motivates the audience to attend a music festival that may be far away?
KASPAR ZEHNDER: Between the past and the future lies the present. In Latin, “being in between” means inter ese. What interests us humans today has to do with both our origins and our path into the future. The audience is likely to be particularly attracted on the one hand by the journey to an interesting region that might not otherwise be a priority destination, and on the other hand, of course, by the music played and the artists. Both connect both past and future, so being in between means inter esse in the true sense, i.e. also living in the here and now.
Special creativity is always required of a guest curator. What is at the centre of the Concentus Moraviae, the Moravian Festival?
At the heart of the festival is the interest that drives creative people on their individual paths. Artists should formulate their personal passions, their real matters of the heart, and present musical works with which they have been intensively engaged for a long time, and which they know how to convey with a lot of heart and emotion. We want to take the audience by the hand and take them on a musical journey.
Moravia is one of the three historical countries of the Czech Republic, along with Bohemia and Czech Silesia or Austrian Silesia, according to Wikipedia. Does the rich history play a role in the music programme of the Festival?
Moravia in the southeast and east of the Czech Republic is indeed a region that goes far back in history. In the 9th century it was the Moravian Empire, then in the 11th century it became a country under the Bohemian crown before the area was administered by the Habsburgs for several hundred years as the Margraviate of Moravia. In addition to Czech music, however, the festival programme includes a vast field of folk tunes from very different parts of our world.
Sounds from countries and regions such as Armenia, Georgia, Romania, Transylvania, Spain, Moravia, Hungary, Argentina, Flanders or Ireland touch us directly because they have sprung directly from the folk soul or tell a legend, remind us of old stories and what we once experienced, of our roots, and make an old “string” in us vibrate again. We sing melodies that have been handed down from generation to generation, we dance rhythms that have been through long migrations: from the Orient via North Africa to Iberia, from the Celtic-influenced west coast of Ireland to Anglo-Saxon Central Europe, from Andalusia via Havana to Latin America.
What fascinates you so much about world music?
Like the other musical genres, world music is boundless, knows no political, linguistic or confessional barriers. Music does not stand still, but is in constant motion, changes, modulates from minor to major, changes character through the colour palette of the keys.
The interpretation has as creative a role as the creation itself: The performers are allowed the freedom to read the musical composition individually, to illuminate it personally and to place it in a current context. The same piece not only differs in different interpretations, but also sounds different depending on place, space and time. Even music that has been known for a long time surprises and fascinates us anew again and again.
Where do your own musical roots lie?
I see my own musical roots first and foremost in Johann Sebastian Bach. It not only represents my Protestant origins, but also means inspiration, universe and fascination for me at the same time.
As a Swiss, I have also experienced the contrasts between German and Italian, French and Austrian culture since my childhood. From being in between, I developed a real interest in the music of our neighbouring countries. I was able to internalise foreign languages more and more. Over time, I have travelled further, from France to Great Britain, via Spain or Italy to North Africa, from Germany’s north further to Scandinavia and the Baltic States, eastwards to the Czech Republic to Smetana, Dvořák and Janáček, to Slovakia, to the Jewish shtetl of Galicia and to Russia. Not least for family reasons, I have always been drawn down the Danube: to Hungary and Romania, to the Balkans, to the Black Sea and towards the Orient.
At the Concentus Moraviae Festival, countless musicians can tell us the story of being on the road, of longing for home, based on their own experience. They let us experience their very individual journey.
What awaits festival-visitors from 31 May to 27 June?
The Armenian duo Sergey and Lusine Khachatryan, the Basque pianist Judith Jáuregui, the Andalusian guitarist Rafael Aguirre, the Argentinian tango singer Analia Selis, the Czech flutist Jana Jarkovská, the Arcadia Quartet from Transylvania, the Georgian piano duo Natia and Tamar Beraia and last but not least the Moravian singer Magdalena Kožená introduce us to the sounds of their homeland.
The Czech violinist Pavel Fischer receives a carte blanche for two programmes.
Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien (France) take us to Ireland on the High Road to Kilkenny. The Sirba Octet makes us jump up from our chairs to the music of the Jews and Roma of Eastern Europe. We find the vocal counterpart in “Le mystère des voix bulgares”, a mixture between vocal ecstasy and meditation.
The Czech percussionists Martin Kleibl and Martin Opršál trace the pulse of humanity from Homo Erectus to modern times.
And in the midst of all these currents, journeys and paths, an evening of organ music by Johann Sebastian Bach stands as an erratic block. It gives me the inspiration to create something new and an incomparable fascination with the universe of music. All this is the focus, the centre of interest for me as dramaturge, for all the musicians participating in the Concentus Moraviae Festival, but also for the audience.